We've been seeing lots of coyotes around our sheep lately. The proximity of these predators to our livelihood presents an ethical dilemma for me - I'm always thrilled at seeing local wildlife, but I always worry about the safety of our sheep. Our friend and partner Ellen called last night, saying that she was a "poor shepherd" because she failed to run over a coyote on her drive back to the ranch. We both agreed that we would have a hard time killing a predator unless it was actually killing a sheep.
If we didn't use guardian animals (dogs and llamas), I would not be able to say this. I like to tell folks that we're predator friendly, but our guard dogs are not! The exception to this, at least for me, is a domestic dog. We've lost sheep to neighbor dogs, and I think I'd probably have a hard time NOT shooting a domestic dog that was chasing my livestock (even if it hadn't killed anything yet). A domestic dog kills for sport; a coyote kills for sustenance. That being said, I'm not sure what I'd do if I found a coyote in the act of killing a sheep. Since I don't have a rifle with me at all times, the question is probably moot.
One of the things I love about my living is that I have a chance to interact with nature on a daily basis - indeed, I'm dependent on nature for my livelihood. Success in this livelihood requires me to take the good with the bad.